Jump Start # 2201
Romans 9:3 “For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.”
One of the key steps to salvation, coming to Christ, is to realize that one is lost. Being lost is living without a future, hope and God. It’s a dead-end road that leads to eternal damnation. Hell isn’t preached much these days. Modern mega-church preachers have removed it from their vocabulary. There aren’t many books being written about Hell. Some have removed it doctrinally from their theology. But it remains. It’s planted firmly in our Bibles. Hell exists because Heaven does. The two are linked together in Matthew 25 in the same sentence. To remove one is to remove the other.
The picture of Hell in the Bible is not pleasant. It’s torment. It’s suffering. It’s called a “second death.” When people complain about living a miserable life and say that their life is Hell, it’s not. It’s not close. While alive on this planet, we have choices, options, hope and God. Those won’t be found in Hell. There is no believing that tomorrow may be better.
The subject of Hell is bothersome to many because of the goodness of God. How could God do that? A loving God would never do that. And, again, Hell is changed into a warning that will never happen or an analogy to scare people into good behavior. The goodness and mercy of God does not exclude the justice of God. When we choose to live a lifetime without God here, He only grants for eternity what we have chosen here. God won’t force someone into Heaven. And, truth be known, God doesn’t send anyone to Hell. Hell is the consequences of our choices when we live a life ignoring our Creator.
Hell isn’t pretty. We should never wish for anyone to be there. We ought to do all that we can to lead people to Christ. Hell is intended for Satan, and not people. God made Heaven for us. That’s where we belong. Hell isn’t run by the devil. Cartoons of Satan jabbing people in Hell isn’t Biblical. God is in charge of Hell. Satan is tormented there endlessly.
Now, all of these thoughts on Hell, just for our verse today. Paul so wanted the Jewish nation, his people, to be saved, that he wished he could trade places with them. He would give them his salvation and he would take on their condemnation. Paul was willing to go to Hell, if it meant the Jews would be saved. Paul was willing to be lost for the sake of others.
Someone asked me about this verse recently. They said what I have often felt about this verse, “I couldn’t do that.” I don’t want to be lost. I don’t want Hell. I do all that I can to stay far away from it. We embrace Christ. We worship and honor Christ throughout our day. We keep our eyes on the goal of Heaven. We are serious about our spiritual walk. We do all that we can to please God. We want to be with God. And, we don’t want to lose what we have. We enjoy salvation. We realize that it is a gift from God. We feed our souls and encourage others to continue on with the Lord. We don’t want to lose any of this. We don’t want to be condemned by God. And, we wouldn’t trade any of this for anyone, especially a nation that put Christ on the cross.
Paul’s wish would not be granted. It cannot be. We cannot trade places with others. We cannot give our salvation nor take on another person’s condemnation. Each of us stands on our own, built by our faith and our choices.
Paul’s wish echoes the words of Jesus when He asked, “what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Paul loved his countrymen. He wanted them to see what he saw. He wanted them to be saved. He gave his all to convince them that Jesus was the Messiah. They wouldn’t listen. He showed them convincing proofs, but they wouldn’t look. He begged. They ignored. He pleaded. They remained stubborn. He warned. They mocked. The Gentiles were getting it. The Gentiles were turning from idols to Christ. The Gentiles were pleasing the Lord. But the Jewish nation resisted. They were proud and they were stubborn. And, they were lost.
Christ so loved them that He gave His life for them. And, now Paul so loved them that he was willing to trade his soul and his salvation for them. There are a few thoughts from this.
First, preaching without heart and love is mere lectures. Intellectual information can be stored in the brain but it doesn’t transform lives and it doesn’t change the heart. What is lacking in many pulpits today is heart and love, the begging and the pleading to bring one to Christ. I have many books of written sermons. Most of them are pretty old. I can read an old sermon and find some truth in it, but what it lacks is the voice, the emotions, the presence of the preacher. Interestingly, God could have sent written sermons throughout the world and told us to simply read them and do what they say. Instead, God put a voice to His word. He sent preachers and prophets to speak His word. What the written sermon misses is the heartbeat of a pleading preacher that longs for his audience to be saved.
Second, Paul saw his role much more than a job. Money aside, he did this because he truly wanted to. He was all in. Paul so embraced the message and the urgency that it moved him. Have you ever spent much time with a preacher on a Sunday night after services are over? Most are drained. Many are down. It’s not that public speaking is so hard, it’s that preaching involves your all. The preacher has poured his heart into that message. He really wanted people to change. He wanted someone to obey Christ. He wanted many to obey Christ. The sermon ends. The preacher is told, “Good sermon.” Everyone goes home and the preacher wonders, “why did no one come to Christ? Where did I fail? What should I have done differently?” Common Sunday evening thoughts that leave us empty, searching and wondering if we are doing any good.
Third, Paul understood that there were limits to what he could do. By this point in Romans, he is ready to trade places with the Jews. There’s nothing more. There’s nothing else. Paul knows this can’t be done. Some will not be saved. Some do not want to be saved. Some won’t change, ever. And, with that, other than to continue to pray, nothing more can be done. Some have grown children who are just like the Jews. They won’t budge. They won’t listen. They aren’t changing. You’ve begged. You’ve warned. You’ve shown. And, nothing. You cry at night because you know they are not saved. You care more for their soul than they do. And, there may be days, like Paul, when you wish you could trade places with them, so they would be saved. But that cannot be done. You have not failed. You have not fallen short in doing all that you could. There are limits to what can be done. When someone refuses and resists, nothing more can be done. You’ll always care. You’ll always plead, pray and hope. But it must come from them. They must want Christ.
Paul really wanted his countrymen to be saved. I wonder how much we want others to be saved?